In May I was back in London again and I took the opportunity to participate in one of the photography workshops offered by Shoreditch Street Art Tours. I had enjoyed one of their evening street art tours last year and I decided I wanted to get to know Shoreditch and the street art to be found in the area a little more. Learning about some of the best ways to take photographs of the art, and trying out different picture composition techniques while being mentored by an expert street art photographer and tour guide, seemed to me a very good way to accomplish both of these goals.
I had arranged to meet the workshop host, Dave Stuart, who publishes photographs of London’s street art under the name NoLionsInEngland, at Christchurch Spitalfields, but I arrived in the area several hours before our appointed meeting time because I wanted to spend some time wandering around Brick Lane on my own to take a few “before” photographs, and to see whether I could recognize the work of artists I’d seen on the two street art tours I’d signed up to last year. After spending a couple of hours walking around Brick Lane and some of the nearby streets, I headed along Sclater Street to Shoreditch High Street and stopped at a recently opened café called CREAM at 31 New Inn Yard. They had some wonderful healthy vegetarian sandwiches, one of which I enjoyed for lunch with a large mug of refreshing green tea. This was a very pleasant café – with bright walls and a high ceiling in what looked like an old commercial building – in which to take a break from walking around the streets in search of inspiring street art.
After finishing my lunch, I walked to Spitalfields and met the other workshop participants on the steps of Christchurch Spitalfields. After introducing ourselves we walked south along Commercial Street and turned left on Fashion Street. We continued to the end of the street to reach Joe’s Kid café, with Dave pointing out work by artists such Neoh and Gregos along the way. We entered the café and quickly found a table so that Dave could show us a slideshow of some of his photographs. The slideshow provided some examples of proven composition techniques for photographing street art, which we would try to put into practice once we had filtered out onto the nearby streets.
As soon as Dave had imparted his words of wisdom to us and got our attention with his impressive photos, we finished our teas in the café and headed out to take in the variegated colors of Brick Lane. During the workshop we covered an area that took us about three hours or so to walk. We saw street art on Brick Lane, Seven Stars Yard, Princelet Street, Hanbury Street, Spital Street, Allen Gardens, Code Street, Pedley Street, Bacon Street, Bethnal Green Road, Club Row, Whitby Street and Chance Street, where we finished the workshop near Roa’s hedgehog painting. After reaching this point I felt I could have continued for another hour or so because I was enjoying myself so much.
There was so much art that impressed me as we walked around these streets of Shoreditch. I enjoyed the vibrancy and imagination of works by visiting artists from South America, such as Cranio and Sliks, but the artwork by Jimmy C, Louis Masai and ALO that we viewed and photographed probably appealed to me the most. The work by Jimmy C was very impressionistic and full of color, and it was obvious that this artist likes inspiring stories and reflecting those stories in his art. The house sparrow painted by Louis Masai on Pedley Street was also impressionistic in that the artist clearly aimed to capture the beauty and movement of a species of bird that was once seen everywhere in towns and cities in England but apparently has become much less common; and I liked the conservation message that he was conveying to his audience. Later, I was even more impressed with his work after watching a video on the artist’s website, which shows him creating the artwork on Pedley Street.
Work by ALO, an artist from Italy who now makes London his home, seemed to be just about everywhere we walked and I just really liked the detail, colors and imagination that the artist had put into the rather bizarre figures he likes to paint. In the summer of 2014 he exhibited some of his original works at the Saatchi Gallery in London, so he has obviously become popular with art buyers and the “art world” as much as with people who just love street art. After the workshop I learned that ALO’s influences include German Expressionism and African art, as well as Punk style. In the artist’s own words, “I just paint people. I like to use shape, color and texture to describe the deeper and inner sides of human beings” (as quoted on the Saatchi Gallery’s website). More examples of ALO’s work can be viewed on the artist’s website.
After the workshop I reviewed the photographs I had taken and was quite surprised to find that I had taken over 170 pictures. The best ones can be seen here.
I look forward to visiting Shoreditch again in the near future and taking more photographs of the ever changing street art. My thanks to Dave Stuart of Shoreditch Street Art Tours for leading the way and being so patient and encouraging.